Take me out to the
Kalma sandlot | Wonsan
baseball, 1920

Baseball by the sea on the Kalma Peninsula

The Kalma Peninsula (갈마반도 |葛麻半島 ) near Wonsan, North Korea, is the site of a newly built international airport and a planned seaside tourist resort scheduled to open in 2019. The peninsula is the former site of a military airport has long been considered prime real-estate for leisure activities.

Traveling to Korea in the late 1890’s, English traveller Isabella Bird commented on the region in the book Korea and Her Neighbors:

...from which green hill rise abruptly, backed by fine mountain forms ...where the sea murmurs in cool grottoes, and beats the pure white sand into ripples at the feed of cliffs hidden by flowers, ferns, and grass, and its air of dreamy repose – ‘a land where it is always afternoon’.

And in the 1920’s, a Korean newspaper article reported the peninsula’s white beaches covered in western-style tents: ‘On Sunday afternoon those westerners don’t do work nor do business, they just play there.’

One activity Wonsan’s resident westerners actively took part on the Kalma Peninsula was baseball. For instance, in the summer of 1921 on 3 August, the Wonsan Foreign Team played a game at Myongshasipli (명사십리 | 明沙十里) — literally ‘the ten-li (3 km) of bright sand’, or in baseball vernacular, a sandlot — near the village of Tunam (두남리 | 斗南里).

This game must have been something of a spectacle in the sleepy seaside town with a few hundred spectators coming out to watch.

Tunam-ri was the site of the 1920 Wonsan baseball game.

Baseball itself wasn’t anything new to Wonsan. The game was likely first introduced to the region by Methodist Missionaries in 1913. M.B Stokes reports in Missionary Voice that the hardest task was convincing local high school students to play catcher.

A week later on 9 August, the foreigners took on the Wonsan YMCA. The game ended in 12—12 tie between the two teams without going into extra innings.

In July of 1921, the Kaesong Songdo High School baseball team visited Wonsan on an 8-game road trip from Hamhung to Inchon, playing three local Wonsan teams: the Wonsan YMCA, Wonsan foreigners (aka ‘the Missionaries’), and the local All-Wonsan Japanese team. All three Wonsan teams lost to the Songdo High team.

Wonsan’s baseball teams seemed not to have faired very well against outside teams. In August of 1923, a visiting group of students from Hawaii — then a territory of the United States — visited Wonsan and defeated a local team 10—7.

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